DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - More than eight out of every 10 U.S. dioceses have already blocked laity from accessing the sacraments owing to concerns for their physical health. Meanwhile, almost no bishops are warning Catholics to be concerned about their spiritual health.
Of the 177 Latin rite dioceses in the United States, 149 have now suspended Mass altogether, according to Catholic author Eric Sammons who compiled the list. Sammons expects that by Friday nearly all of the U.S. diocese will have done so.
The policy of U.S. bishops restricting lay access to Christ is at odds with other bishops from the United States, Poland and Peru, who are urging Catholics to come even more to Christ in this time of need.
On Friday, Bp. Joseph Strickland from Tyler, Texas held a eucharistic procession in order to combat the coronavirus and urged his priests to do likewise.
Strickland called the procession a "great blessing and a moment of grace."
"It was a blessing to collectively turn to the Real Presence of the Lord and ask Him to help us and protect us," he recounted.
Strickland told Church Militant he has asked all priests in the diocese to have a simple eucharistic procession at a weekend or weekday Mass before the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19.
On Wednesday, the bishop tweeted, "I call on every Catholic priest to lead a simple eucharistic procession around your church sometime before the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, for repentance, Christ's healing hand on the coronavirus & that all men may be Godly, manly sons & disciples of His Son Jesus Christ."
I call on every Catholic priest to lead a simple Eucharistic Procession around your Church sometime before the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, for repentance, Christ's healing hand on the Coronavirus & that all men may be Godly, manly sons & disciples of His Son Jesus Christ.— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) March 11, 2020
Meanwhile, the Polish bishops are also bucking the current trend and are calling for even more Masses to be offered during the coronavirus scare. In a press release published March 10, Poznań Abp. Stanisław Gądecki noted that hospitals treat bodily diseases while churches treat spiritual diseases.
"That is why it is unimaginable for us not to pray in our churches," said the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
Speaking in similar spiritual terms, Peruvian Abp. José Antonio Eguren Anselmi of the Piura archdiocese announced on Saturday that churches will remain open and that parishioners won't be forced to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the hand.
"Churches are places of salvation and healing where we welcome who life itself is — Jesus Christ, Our Lord," said Eguren. "Throughout history when great plagues struck humanity, churches remained open and the Christians kept helping the sick."
While many bishops are urging Catholics to avoid Mass for sake of their physical health, a few bishops are urging Catholics to consider their moral health by examining their consciences, going to confession or amending their lives.